Story as a societal ingredient

Good social criticism about story from Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem”

So I looked with fascination at those people in their mobes (cars), and tried to fathom what it would be like. Thousands of years ago, the work that people did had been broken down into jobs that were the same every day, in organizations where people were interchangeable parts. All the story had been bled out of their lives. That was how it had to be; it was how you got a productive economy. But it would be easy to see a will at work behind this; not exactly an evil will, but a selfish will. The people who’d made the system thus were jealous, not of money and not of power but of story. If their employees came home at day’s end with interesting stories to tell, it meant that something had gone wrong: a blackout, a strike, a spree killing. The Powers That Be would not suffer others to be in stories of their own unless they were fake stories that had been made up to motivate them. People who couldn’t live without story had been driven into the concents (orders separate from mainstream society devoted to the pursuit of math) or into jobs like Yul’s. All others had to look somewhere outside of work for a feeling that they were part of a story, which I guessed was why Sæculars (mainstream society) were so concerned with sports, and with religion. how else could you see yourself as part of an adventure? Something with a beginning, middle, and end in which you played a significant part?

See also: We Are Living in a Sci-Fi World


About Steve